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Illuminating Every Fear: A Triptych

by James Claffey

The spot from where your future will appear, this great thing you wait for, is out there, in the fields, in the streets of some unknown city. Just like you were, or still are, out there searching. There’s something you seek like a buried jewel in Varanasi. You leave your body sometimes in search of it, a clod-covered ephemera to put your soul at rest. You’ve seen it before. It was in your father’s house when you were a boy. Your mother polished the treasure every week, gently handled its surface, rubbing it with cloth. Perhaps she has the answers, abandoned and sitting in her kitchen. She smokes cigarettes as the black clouds rumble across the window and drop sheets of gray water.

There must be a shift in how things are approached. Believe in possibility. It can take place, open a weal in your flesh, enough to place a finger or two, an entryway for fortune. Speak words of love, of life, of healing. Abandon words of death, of corruption, of impotence. Jacket warms your neck, collar up around your ears, eye slits narrow against sand that whips off the beach, dervish-like to the air. Choppy water, dolphins off shore, beneath the violence, and only stubborn gulls stand at shoreline, huddled together, bundled in feather to stare at a fierce sea. Now and again one caught by wind propels—paper boat in a hurricane. When wind tumbles gulls in gusts and hurtles them along, are they afraid, or do they revel in thrill?

Nowhere on the seascape can you find what you seek. Maybe you’re not in the right place. She didn’t speak of places geographic, only of places in the soul: fiercely buttressed vaults, dark cobwebs hanging from the eaves, a faint chink of light cutting pitch like a scalpel to illuminate fears you’ve touched. The cards pointed to the void—Knight of Cups, the Queen of Cups, the Magician, the Hanged Man—and your father who could die tonight while your five-year-old body lies awake in the dark listening, waiting for his breathing to stop, and the mourning to begin. Shall you grow up and fail? How will you make the change from child to adult without the map buried off on some barren headland?

Writer James Claffey hails from County Westmeath, Ireland, and lives on an avocado ranch in Carpinteria, CA. His work has appeared in the New Orleans Review, Word Riot, Metazen, Necessary Fiction, FWriction and many other places. His short fiction collection, Blood a Cold Blue, will be published this fall by Press 53.

Lead image: “DSC03162” (via Flickr user Evgeniy Sozaev)

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